Ministers have been setting out what Covid controls in England could look like this autumn and winter, following either a Plan A or Plan B approach.
The autumn and winter plan states that the contingency measures “should be sufficient to reverse a resurgence” but “the nature of the virus means it is not possible to give guarantees”.
'Winter could be bumpy'
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, told a Downing Street briefing: “We know that this pandemic is still active, we are not past the pandemic, we are in an active phase still.
“We know this winter could be bumpy at times and we know that winter viruses such as flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are highly likely to make their returns.”
Plan A for autumn and winter will focus on following through with the vaccine programme, while also carrying out a booster jab campaign to top up the immunity of those already fully inoculated against the virus.
Health workers will be able to book their boosters from September 20, along with care home residents and those in receipt of regular flu jabs, while those over 70 or at high risk will be contacted by their GP soon.
Other groups – including all adults over 50, those with underlying conditions, adult carers, unpaid and young carers or those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed – will be able to book a jab online from October.
People will be encouraged to meet outdoors or open windows if indoors, wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed settings, wash their hands frequently, and use the NHS Covid app while businesses will be urged to consider using the Covid pass to check the vaccination or test status of customers.
Social care workers and frontline NHS staff might have to take up the offer of a Covid and flu vaccination in order to continue in their roles, although such measures are subject to consultation.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has suggested PCR tests for double-jabbed travellers will be scrapped in favour of lateral flow tests, with the move being announced by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in due course.
While a lockdown is not part of the winter plan, it has not been ruled out by ministers or Downing Street.
'Best possible chance of living with Covid'
There is also a Plan B if the first batch of measures does not prevent rising Covid cases during the colder months.
A surge in Covid cases could see people in England ordered to wear face masks in some settings and work from home.
It also includes introducing mandatory vaccine-only Covid-pass use in settings including nightclubs; indoor venues with 500 or more attendees likely to be in close proximity to others, such as music concerts; outdoor settings with 4,000 or more people, such as festivals; and any settings with 10,000 or more people, such as sports events.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs: “The plan shows how we’ll give this nation the best possible chance of living with Covid without the need for stringent social and economic restrictions.”
He added: “We have seen how quickly this virus can adapt and change so we have prepared a Plan B of contingency measures that we can call upon only if they are needed and supported by the data to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”
Mr Johnson said the Government’s plan B had “a number of different shots in the locker” with which it could respond if cases started rising.
“You wouldn’t necessarily play them all at once, far from it, you would want to do things in a graduated way,” he said,
“We’re now in a situation when because so many of the population have some degree of immunity, smaller changes in the way we’re asking people to behave can have a bigger impact.”
A version of this story originally appeared on NationalWorld.com